(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke with reporters during the flight that took him from Cuba to the United States on Tuesday afternoon.
In response to the journalists’ questions, the Holy Father touched on a number of topics ranging from the US trade embargo on Cuba to his eagerly awaited speech to Congress on Thursday.
Expressing his hope that the US will lift its long trade embargo on Cuba as a result of negotiations, the Pope said he does not plan to raise the issue in his address to Congress this week.
“It is a public thing that is moving along the path of the good relations they are looking for (…). My desire is that they end up with a good result, that they reach an accord that satisfies both sides, an accord, certainly” he said.
And pressed about his speech to Congress, the Pope said he will address “bi-lateral relations and multi-national relations as a sign of progress and coexistence.”
Questioned about how some of his writings may have given the impression that he’s “a little bit more left-leaning” Pope Francis said he is only repeating the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Asked to comment on questions by U.S. conservative commentators about whether he’s a communist or even Catholic, the Holy Father said “I am certain that I have never said anything beyond what is in the social doctrine of the church.”
And joking about whether he was truly Catholic, he added: “If I have to recite the Creed, I’m ready.”
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has landed on American soil. He landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington DC at 3.50pm local time kicking off the first visit of his life to the United States of America. Pope Francis’ 10th Apostolic Journey abroad has already taken him to Cuba where he visited Havana, Holguin and Santiago. In the United States of America he will be spending time in Washington DC, in New York and in Philadelphia where the World Meeting of Families is taking place. Greeting him on the tarmac at the Washington Air Force Base, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It is the first time in his presidency that Obama has greeted a visiting dignitary at the point of touchdown. Presidents usually have important visitors come to them, at the White House. However for Francis’s predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, President George W. Bush and Laura Bush travelled to the air force base in Maryland to greet him. This visit marks Pope Francis’ second meeting with President Obama whom he first met in the Vatican in March 2014. During his six-day, three-city visit to the U.S., Pope Francis will meet with Obama, address Congress, speak at the United Nations in New York and take part in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia where he will celebrate the closing Mass. The Official Welcome Ceremony in Washington DC takes place on Wednesday morning at the White House. Some 15,000 people have been invited to attend the ceremony which is scheduled to take place on the South Lawn. Afterwards, the Pope and the President will hold talks in private in the Oval Office. Pope Francis’s Apostolic Visit to the US is packed with important events, including the first ever address from a Pope to Congress. But it also includes many, more personal gestures, like meeting with immigrants, with prisoners and with the homeless. Those meetings which include the moments that Pope Francis clearly cherishes most, as time and time again, he reaches out to those struggling to hold on to the bottom rungs of society. (from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis flew from Cuba to the United States on Tuesday. As is tradition he sent a telegram to the countries he overflew.
We reproduce them below:
HIS EXCELLENCY RAÚL CASTRO RUZ
PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCILS OF STATE
AND OF THE MINISTERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA
AS I DEPART FROM CUBA, I WISH TO EXPRESS MY DEEP GRATITUDE TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND TO ALL THE CUBAN PEOPLE FOR YOUR WARM WELCOME TO THE COUNTRY. I INVOKE THE BLESSINGS OF ALMIGHTY GOD UPON YOU ALL AND I ASSURE YOU OF MY PRAYERS FOR YOUR PEACE AND PROSPERITY.
Sorvolo Le Bahama – 22 settembre 2015
HER EXCELLENCY DAME MARGUERITE PINDLING
GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS
AS I PASS AGAIN OVER YOUR NATION, I WISH TO RENEW TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS THE ASSURANCE OF MY BEST WISHES, AND I INVOKE THE BLESSING OF ALMIGHTY GOD UPON THE BAHAMAS.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) The head of the English Programme Seán-Patrick Lovett is currently travelling with Francis on his 10th Apostolic journey abroad. A journey which has taken the Pope to Cuba where he landed in the nation’s capital Havana on the 19th of September and from where he departs on the evening of the 22nd of September for the United States. Before his departure Seán shared with us his impressions of the first leg of thistrip.
Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett’s final report from Cuba:
As the Pope leaves Cuba for the U.S. leg of this (how shall I describe it?) “exciting” (?), “challenging” (!), pilgrimage – a couple of images remain emblazoned on my strained, sleepless and over-heated psyche.
One of them is that of the families gathered in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba: young and old, adolescents and infants – a microcosm of society and a vibrant reminder of where we come from, who we are…and what we should be.
The other is of contrasting messages that I have seen scrawled or stenciled on walls and buildings, in the streets and squares we’ve whizzed through in the papal motorcade over the past three days.
It’s clear (to me at least) that Cuban authorities are struggling to keep the cult of the Revolution alive. Everywhere you look you see mementos and monuments of that tumultous moment in their history. They take the form of outrageously oppressive equestrian statues, or ostentatious bronze busts of revolutionary heroes that glare back at you with an uncompromising gaze, or of rhetorical slogans that blaze down from public buildings – while Che and Fidel constantly remind you that without them Cuba would not be what it is today.
The contrast comes with the posters and banners of Pope Francis that decorate the same streets and buildings: his benign and smiling face, the peace and welcome contained (implicitly and explicitly) in his “revolutionary” message, is so strikingly different from the popular revolutionary heroes that surround him – you can’t help but notice it.
I think that Cubans have noticed it too.
I saw the same expressions reflected on the faces of the families in the Cathedral today – especially the younger ones…those for whom the future is far more important than the past.
With the Pope in Cuba – and on my way to the United States – I’m Seán-Patrick Lovett
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ final engagement in Cuba on Tuesday (22nd September) was a meeting with families in the cathedral in Santiago. After listening to a young mother and father with three children speaking of their hopes, the Pope described families as centres of humanity and warmth. The family, he said, “saves us from two present-day phenomena: fragmentation and uniformity.”
Spesaking off the cuff, Pope Francis recalled how many pregnant women at his weekly general audiences in the Vatican ask him to bless their unborn babies. He said anyone in the audience, or listening via radio or television, who is “pregnant with hope” should place their hand on their tummy and receive the Pope’s blessing.
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks for his address to families in Santiago de Cuba’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption:
We are here as a family! And whenever we come together as a family, we feel at home. Thank you, Cuban families. Thank you, Cubans, for making me feel part of a family, for making me feel at home, in these days. This meeting is like “the cherry on the cake”. To conclude my visit with this family gathering is a reason to thank God for the “warmth” spread by people who know how to welcome and accept someone, to make him feel at home. Thank you!
I am grateful to Archbishop Dionisio García of Santiago for his greetings in the name of all present, and to the married couple who were not afraid to share with all of us their hopes and struggles in trying to make their home a “domestic church”.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus worked his first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, at a family party. There he was, with Mary, his Mother, and some of his disciples, taking part in a family celebration.
Weddings are special times in many people’s lives. For the “older folks”, parents and grandparents, it is an opportunity to reap the fruits of what they have sown. Our hearts rejoice when we see children grow up and make a home of their own. For a moment, we see that everything we worked for was worth the effort. To raise children, to support and encourage them, to help them want to make a life for themselves and form a family: this is a great challenge for all parents. Weddings, too, show us the joy of young spouses. The future is open before them, and everything “smacks” of new possibilities, of hope. Weddings always bring together the past which we inherit and the future in which we put our hope. They are an opportunity to be grateful for everything which has brought us to this day, with the same love which we have received.
Jesus begins his public life at a wedding. He enters into that history of sowing and reaping, of dreams and quests, of efforts and commitments, of hard work which tills the land so that it can yield fruit. Jesus began his life within a family, within a home. And he continues to enter into, and become a part of, our homes.
It is interesting to see how Jesus also shows up at meals, at dinners. Eating with different people, visiting different homes, was a special way for him to make known God’s plan. He goes to the home of his friends, Martha and Mary, but he is not choosy; it makes no difference to him if they are publicans or sinners, like Zacchaeus. He didn’t just act this way himself; when he sent his disciples out to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God he told them: Stay in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide (Lk 10:7). Weddings, visits to people’s homes, dinners: those moments in people’s lives become “special” because Jesus chose to be part of them.
I remember in my former diocese how many families told me that almost the only time they came together was at dinner, in the evening after work, when the children had finished their homework. These were special times in the life of the family. They talked about what happened that day and what each of them had done; they tidied the house, put things away and organized their chores for the next few days. These were also times when someone might come home tired, or when arguments or bickering might break out. Jesus chooses all those times to show us the love of God. He chooses those moments to enter into our hearts and to help us to discover the Spirit of life at work in our daily affairs. It is in the home that we learn fraternity, solidarity, and not to be overbearing. It is in the home that we learn to receive, to appreciate life as a blessing and to realize that we need one another to move forward. It is in the home that we experience forgiveness, that we are continually asked to forgive and to grow. In the home there is no room for “putting on masks”: we are who we are, and in one way or another we are called to do our best for others.
That is why the Christian community calls families “domestic churches”. It is in the warmth of the home that faith fills every corner, lights up every space, builds community. At those moments, people learn to discover God’s love present and at work.
In many cultures today, these spaces are shrinking, these experiences of family are disappearing, and everything is slowly breaking up, growing apart. We have fewer moments in common, to stay together, to stay at home as a family. As a result, we don’t know how to be patient, we don’t know how to ask permission or forgiveness, or even to say “thank you”, because our homes are growing empty. Empty of relationships, empty of contacts, empty of encounters. Not long ago, someone who works with me told me that his wife and children had gone off on vacation, while he remained home alone. The first day, the house is completely quiet, “at peace”, and nothing was out of place. On the third day, when I asked him how things were going, he told me: I wish they would all come back soon. He felt he couldn’t live without his wife and children.
Without family, without the warmth of home, life grows empty, there is a weakening of the networks which sustain us in adversity, nurture us in daily living and motivate us to build a better future. The family saves us from two present-day phenomena: fragmentation (division) and uniformity. In both cases, people turn into isolated individuals, easy to manipulate and to rule. Societies which are divided, broken, separated or rigidly uniform are a result of the breakup of family bonds, the loss of those relationships which make us who we are, which teach us to be persons.
The family is a school of humanity which teaches us to open our hearts to others’ needs, to be attentive to their lives. Amid all the difficulties troubling our families today, please, never forget one thing: families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support.
We talk a lot about the future, about the kind of world we want to leave to our children, the kind of society we want for them. I believe that one possible answer lies in looking at yourselves: let us leave behind a world with families. No doubt about it: the perfect family does not exist; there are no perfect husbands and wives, perfect parents, perfect children, but this does not prevent families from being the answer for the future. God inspires us to love, and love always engages with the persons it loves. So let us care for our families, true schools for the future. Let us care for our families, true spaces of freedom. Let us care for families, true centers of humanity.
I do not want to end without mentioning the Eucharist. All of you know very well that Jesus chose a meal to the setting for his memorial. He chose a specific moment of family life as the “place” of his presence among us. A moment which we have all experienced, a moment we all understand: a meal.
The Eucharist is the meal of Jesus’ family, which the world over gathers to hear his word and to be fed by his body. Jesus is the Bread of Life for our families. He wants to be ever present, nourishing us by his love, sustaining us in faith, helping us to walk in hope, so that in every situation we can experience the true Bread of Heaven.
In a few days I will join families from across the globe in the World Meeting of Families and, in less than a month, in the Synod of Bishops devoted to the family. I ask you to pray in a particular way for these two events, so that together we can find ways to help one another and to care for the family, so that we can continue to discover Emmanuel, the God who dwells in the midst of his people, and makes his home in our families.
(from Vatican Radio)…